A CRISIS within Police Scotland’s technical department has caused delays to numerous trials, a sheriff has been told.
Several trials were postponed yesterday when a frustrated prosecutor told the court that police were having major issues with the production of CCTV footage.
Trials – including multiple assault, robbery, drugs and domestic abuse cases – have been delayed for several months because of the CCTV backlog. Sheriff William Wood said the issue had been caused either by a lack of funding and manpower or by technical problems and was creating “significant difficulties”.
Procurator-fiscal depute Rebecca Kynaston asked for at least four trials to be put off at Perth Sheriff Court and explained Police Scotland was to blame.
In the first case, alleging four assaults, she said: “Police are having problems with copying CCTV for all cases and we are constantly chasing them. We do not have the footage ourselves in these cases. It is CCTV from the locus. The problem is, it comes in a format which is not playable and has to be copied, and there is a huge backlog and all sorts of problems.
“It is an ongoing problem the Crown is having at the moment, which is outwith our control. We are not really in a position to do anything.
“We have had a reply from the police office which said, ‘CCTV has not been received back from the department that copies it’. They are not giving any timescales to me at present.
“People in our office have been told three months. That seems to be changing daily, but there is a severe problem with it. The CCTV is essential.”
In a case relating to an alleged domestic incident, she said: “I am in a position again with the CCTV where things are not coming in quite as we hoped.”
Moments later, a third case was put off for the same reason and Ms Kynaston said: “It is being chased and we are constantly contacting the police and we are no further forward.”
Solicitor David Holmes, defending alleged shoplifter Raymond Urquhart, said: “CCTV evidence is critical to proof of the case and it is not here.”
Sheriff Wood said: “There are significant difficulties, whether that be with manpower shortages or technical issues. There is a glitch at Police Scotland which seems to be causing significant difficulty.”
The sheriff said he had been left with no option but to postpone all of the trials until near the end of the year.
The trials put off included those of a 31-year-old man accused of attacking and injuring three men and a woman in the Niblick pub in Auchterarder in March.
Superintendent Andrew Allan, of Police Scotland’s criminal justice team, said: “We are aware of this matter and are working with the COPFS [Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service] to resolve it as soon as possible and are taking steps to prioritise cases in which this type of evidence may be needed as a matter of urgency.
“Unfortunately, this week we have had a number of short-term staffing issues which has affected our performance and we apologise for any problems this has caused.”